Even considering that each album of the Ukrainian black metal band Do Skonu differs from previous works, their eighth opus (more precisely, his – Varagian is the only member of the project) “…and Darkness Was Over the Surface of the Deep” does not really fit into the band’s musical progress line. Albeit this line is not very smooth, anyway it’s still quite obvious.
So it’s better to start with what the new album is not. “…and Darkness…” is definitely not a continuation of the tendency definitively established on the seventh album “Offering”. An unimaginable amalgam of Burzum in his “Fallen” period (for example, the fourth “Deadman” contains almost unequivocal quotes from this Vikernes’ album) and Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand with a light touch of blackened stoner metal and post black metal – it was an amazing album with a beautiful music. Clearly underrated. But “…and Darkness…” has nothing to do with it. Well, almost.
“Hesychian Noise”? Humph, in the press release “…and Darkness…” is claimed to be the second part (sequel) exactly of the sixth album. It must be assumed that if it is a continuation, then it is an entirely thematic/lyrical/symbolic continuation, while in terms of music it is not a sequel at all, but a prequel at its finest. Seriously, you might even think that these albums were recorded by two different bands.
Well, although “Hesychian Noise” did not reach “Offering” by the degree of experimentalism, it contained material on the verge of modern/avant-garde black metal, which even stepped into the territory of post black metal on some fragments. The songs were more complex than on “…and Darkness…” both in structure and musical technique: dissonance is an excellent indicator in this regard, so, by contrast with “Hesychian Noise” there are no dissonances on “…and Darkness…”, almost everything is built on old schoolness here. If that wasn’t enough, “Hesychian Noise” was mainly focused on mid- and slow- tempos, only the fourth “You Will Be Devoured by the Black Cunt” contained a blast-beat acceleration.
So with its fast paced songs “…and Darkness…” is more close to the first two albums “Womb of Primeval Darkness” and “Cold Streams of Death”. However, the gloomy aloofness of the new release makes it stand apart even from the primary maximalism. In some ways “…and Darkness…” is even more minimalistic than those first two albums. It seems that Varagian was more concerned with expressing his emotions than with composing sophisticated music as before, so some songs, by the way, may not seem to be carried to their logical conclusion. Oh no, this is not a return to the roots at all – this is an entirely new branch on the evolutionary tree.
The production on “…and Darkness…” is by no means lo-fi, but the low end production quality gives this album an almost bestial black/death atmosphere. Add to that the production is cavernous, yes, there is such a feeling, so it’s no surprise that sometimes the blast beat-laden sections have a distant touches of Blasphemy: the beginning of the title track, the middle of “Final Judgment (Phosphorus Fire)”. Yes, this doesn’t always happen, but the uncertain sensation that we are dealing with rough and dirty black metal does not leave almost throughout the entire album.
Apparently the downtuned guitar sounds a bit hollow, and because of such a low pitched almost visceral sound the Swedish black metal riffs that fill the album are hardly discerned. Swedish classics – from the brutal Marduk (“Inexplicable Obsession”) to the maudlin Dark Funeral (“Eschatological Gangrene (Destroyed Katechon)”) – seem to be deliberately made more primitive. While the muffled drums take the lead in the mix, the low end rhythm guitar is restrained and in its turn the rough abrasive like sandpaper voice is noticeably raised, – well, maybe this is not the best way to present music in the spirit of Swedish melodicism.
Anyway there is something to it. Synthesis occurs in a series of these antitheses: “…and Darkness…” turns out to be so alienated that its gloomy malice becomes physically palpable. The originality of this album is generated by means which are old like black metal itself, but they are combined in such an unnatural manner that sometimes it becomes really uncomfortable. It’s like making a cocktail of seemingly familiar ingredients, but mixing them in such a way that it is enough to raise your hair. “…and Darkness…” is really an unusual work with its aversion to the usual… world outlook? And minimalism finds itself nothing less than, as another tool for generating this aloofness.
Among other things, the solos are cavernous again and besides there are not so many of them on “…and Darkness…”: if we are not mistaken, the first solo appears on the third “Eschatological Gangrene” and the next only on the fifth “Abyss Calls Upon Abyss, with the Voice of the Oceans of Sands”. While the first guitar picking can be heard in the sixth “Plague Requiem”, it is accompanied here by mercilessly menacing battle drums – this fragment sounds pretty interesting, if not to say paranormal. In the first third of the last “Eschatological Hoax” you can hear another picking, this time it’s more natural for black metal – a little mysterious. Such are the statistics that convey the atmosphere of “…and Darkness…”
Thanatoid muffled keyboards in the spirit of Mysticum (pay attention first of all to “Final Judgment” and “Abyss Calls Upon Abyss…”) make the sound even more unnatural. It is noteworthy that this Mysticum-like deathly lifeless atmosphere reveals itself not only during the keyboard passages, but also throughout the low end tremolo-picked riff over a blasting rampage (the most significant example is “Eschatological Hoax”). It remains to repeat that such a cadaverous atmosphere perfectly matches the spirit of “…and Darkness…”
“Eschatological Gangrene” and “Abyss Calls Upon Abyss…” stand out of all the songs. “Eschatological Gangrene” sounds like the most “vital” piece on the album, especially after the first two – it even feels like a different record. In its turn “Abyss Calls Upon Abyss…” is the most interesting song on the album, with its lead which is a high pitched sharp irritant, it really reminds the material of “Hesychian Noise” and “Offering”, although it is built on the same old schoolness.
Summary. If you have not been familiar with Do Skonu before, then it is definitely not worth starting with “…and Darkness Was Over the Surface of the Deep”. We strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with this work, but stay focused, it’s not that simple here.